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Biochemistry. 2003 Apr 8;42(13):3696-700.

Beta-synuclein inhibits formation of alpha-synuclein protofibrils: a possible therapeutic strategy against Parkinson's disease.

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Center for Neurologic Diseases, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, 65 Landsdowne Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


Parkinson's disease (PD) is an age-associated and progressive movement disorder that is characterized by dopaminergic neuronal loss in the substantia nigra and, at autopsy, by fibrillar alpha-synuclein inclusions, or Lewy bodies. Despite the qualitative correlation between alpha-synuclein fibrils and disease, in vitro biophysical studies strongly suggest that prefibrillar alpha-synuclein oligomers, or protofibrils, are pathogenic. Consistent with this proposal, transgenic mice that express human alpha-synuclein develop a Parkinsonian movement disorder concurrent with nonfibrillar alpha-synuclein inclusions and the loss of dopaminergic terminii. Double-transgenic progeny of these mice that also express human beta-synuclein, a homologue of alpha-synuclein, show significant amelioration of all three phenotypes. We demonstrate here that beta- and gamma-synuclein (a third homologue that is expressed primarily in peripheral neurons) are natively unfolded in monomeric form, but structured in protofibrillar form. Beta-synuclein protofibrils do not bind to or permeabilize synthetic vesicles, unlike protofibrils comprising alpha-synuclein or gamma-synuclein. Significantly, beta-synuclein inhibits the generation of A53T alpha-synuclein protofibrils and fibrils. This finding provides a rationale for the phenotype of the double-transgenic mice and suggests a therapeutic strategy for PD.

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